Here’s how Gov. DeSantis’ new immigration policy could impact Florida economy

Experts say crackdown on undocumented workers could have pros, cons

Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1718 in Jacksonville. It will be the newest immigration policy for the state of Florida.

“In Florida, we want businesses to hire citizens and legal immigrants, but we want them to follow the law and not hire illegal immigrants,” DeSantis said during the event.

When the law goes into effect in July, businesses could face a $10,000 fine for every undocumented employee found working for them, and the state could revoke their business license.

Construction and agriculture sectors heavily rely on undocumented workers for labor, and now some of those workers are worried they will be fired.

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“I think if you come illegally, you just get put back across the border,” DeSantis said.

Yesica Ramirez with the Farmworker Association of Florida put into perspective how shaken communities are right now.

Her colleague translated for News 6 reporter Treasure Roberts.

“We’re getting calls every day this week. We keep getting more and more telephone calls of people asking us, ‘What should we do? We don’t know whether we should leave. Should we stay? What options do we have?’”

The law also states data will be collected about whether hospital patients are in the country legally.

“They’re going to be afraid to go to the doctor because of their status,” Ramirez said.

DeSantis said Americans should determine what type of immigration benefits this country — and not the other way around.

“Nobody has a right to immigrate to this country — no foreigner,” DeSantis said.

Ramirez believes his decision will ultimately impact Florida’s economy.

“So what’s (going to) happen to the state, there’s so many workers that are in construction, that are in roofing. Who’s (going to) come and do that work? Who’s (going to) work on roofing in July when it’s really hot? Who’s (going to) do this work for low wages and do the work that’s a part of the backbone of our economy in the state?” Ramirez said.

However, some experts said the policies could have a positive impact on the economy, as well.

Sean Snaith is the director of the Institute for Economic Forecast at the University of Central Florida.

He said some businesses benefit from access to undocumented workers who are willing to work for lower wages than U.S. citizens

“I think that’s part of the reason among others that there hasn’t really been a crackdown, as it were, trying to get a hold on who and how many people are coming into the United States,” Snaith said.

He said low-income U.S. workers are impacted by increased competition in the labor force because undocumented workers agree to do jobs for lower wages.

Snaith said if undocumented workers were to be removed from the equation, then businesses will have to pay higher wages for citizens.

That could impact how much consumers pay for goods and services, but it could also mean lower-income workers in the U.S. could face better pay for jobs currently occupied by undocumented workers.

“They would have to pay higher wages to documented workers or citizen workers than they would to someone who’s here illegally and was happy to work for these lesser wages,” Snaith explained.

In addition, a crackdown on undocumented migrants entering the country could also reduce the demand for things like housing, food and medical care — further driving down the cost of living for Florida residents.

“You need food. You need shelter. You need medical care of some sort, and so those resources have to come from somewhere,” Snaith said.

It’s an issue facing border states in particular.

“Not everybody crosses in Texas and ends up in Iowa,” Snaith said. “So I think border states are faced with far more issues than perhaps the rest of the United States from this kind of large influx of people.”

Besides the economic impact, Ramirez said some of these workers have spent decades living in Florida. She said they have raised children here; there whole life is here, and they want to stay.

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About the Authors:

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined in April 2022.